Treatment of a suspected case of Novel Coronavirus at the UWI hospital_ local news headline in Jamaica. Soon after that news report, The Ministry of Health and Wellness called a press conference to deny the report. If reports were true, how would it impact Jamaica’s economy? What impact will it tourism?
What is the coronavirus?
Coronavirus is a large family of viruses that have been known for centuries. Some Coronavirus affects humans, while others circulate among animals such as bats, cats, and camels.
Well, Know the types of Coronavirus.
- Middle East Respiratory Syndrome MERS,
- Acute Respiratory syndrome SARS.
- Novel Coronavirus (2019 -nCoV) new
The MERS outbreak started in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and spread to other countries in Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and Asia. Infected Camels were the source of the MERS virus.
The SARS outbreak started in China in 2002, and the source of infection was bats.
The first case of Novel Coronavirus was detected in Wuhan, China. Bats were the primary suspect, although it has not been confirmed. So far, this virus has infected over 20,000 people and counting. The virus had spread to other parts of the world.
WHO has not yet declared the Novel Coronavirus a pandemic, despite it spreading to other countries.
Coronavirus is spread:
- droplets from cough,
- contact with an infected person
- handling of contaminated animal product
- contact with animals
- contaminated surfaces
The symptoms of the Novel Coronavirus are similar to the common flu, such as respiratory symptoms, cough, and fever. However, note that coronavirus can cause kidney failure or even death if underlining health conditions exist.
- Washing hands often
- wearing a surgical mask
- avoid contact with animals
- cook animal product
- avoid contact with an infected person
- cover mouth when coughing
This virus has no cure. They are looking at developing something from the SARS vaccine because they have similarities.
Tourism & the Jamaica economy.
One of Jamaica’s primary sources of foreign exchange is tourism. Only remittance and bauxite rival tourism in foreign exchange earnings. They earned over three billion dollars from tourism in 2018, with about one billion remaining in the country. Adding much-needed cash to the cash-strap economy.
The tourism industry employs 9 percent of Jamaica’s labor force, about 120000 persons. Therefore, any disruption in this sector would cause a significant drop in revenue for Jamaica.
A significant decrease in tourist arrival from the US would impact Jamaica’s ability to earn foreign currency. Therefore, reducing the country’s purchasing power. Basic supplies such as food, oil, and medicine would be unaffordable. These are necessities that Jamaica needs but do not produce.
Less money to buy oil would Impact power production and transportation, causing a domino effect.
The lack of foreign currency will limit Jamaica’s ability to buy medicine and medical equipment. This would put the health industry in a precarious position because Jamaica imports most of its health equipment and medical supplies.
Although many healthcare professionals graduate yearly from our colleges and universities, hospitals are still understaffed. Because a significant number of healthcare professionals migrate.
To make matters worse, agents recruit Jamaican nurses and doctors for overseas employment. Putting further strain on a system struggling to keep staff. The health sector receives fewer resources than needed to compound the problem further.
Over crowded hospital added to the mountain of problems in the health system. For every thousand people on the island, 1.2 hospital beds are available. Therefore, any major influx of patients would strain resources, plus only 9.6 doctors are available to every 100,000 people.
Chikungunya (Chik-V) outbreak shows how the Coronavirus could affect Jamaica.
According to Doctor Christopher Tufton, Jamaica’s Minister of Health and Wellness, about 1.9 million people contracted Chik-V in 2014. That is 70% of the population. Eight in every ten Jamaicans had a positive serum (blood) test for chikungunya.
The high rate of Chik-V infection causes a significant drop in production because of high employee absenteeism. Because the crippling pain from the virus infection had people bedridden for days.
Infected Aedes egypti mosquitoes spread the disease from human to human. That mosquito also spreads the dengue virus and the Zika virus, which infects many Jamaicans.
A mosquito-transmitted disease infected over 70% of Jamaica’s population in only a few months. Can you imagine the effect if it was airborne? Given Jamaica’s makeup, no one would be spared.
Most of Jamaica’s population lives in an urban environment, Kingston and Saint Andrew accounting for over 590,000 people. Following is Saint Catherine, with over 400,000 people. Other parishes with large urban areas are Clarendon and Saint James. Kingston & Saint Andrew, and Saint Catherine have over 40% of Jamaica’s population.
Most rural-to-urban migration ends up in Kingston. This limits space available for housing and increases the cost. The shortage of houses in Kingston forced people looking to improve their standard of living to settle in other parishes. Resulting in rapid urbanization of rural areas.
Modern Amenities are now accessible in parts of the island. Rural folks no longer live on farms or in the hills. Most people live in housing schemes or villages, where the houses are close. Contacting many people often.
The urbanization of Jamaica makes it easier for an airborne disease to affect a large group of people over a short period. The rapid spreading of ChikV is a perfect example of how viruses can spread in urban areas. Areas in Jamaica with high population density were most affected by this disease.
What could happen if the government tries to cover up the Coronavirus
Jamaica’s worse fear has been realized. They have detected the Novel Coronavirus on the island. The infected individual has been isolated and is been monitored. Someone did not follow protocol and got infected.
The government tries to keep this information a secret because they do not want to disrupt cash cow _ tourism. Secrets are not kept for a long time in Jamaica because Jamaicans love to talk. Local social media is flooded with jokes about the virus. Jamaica, we take nothing too seriously; we find humor in the most tragic event.
Rumors of the Novel Coronavirus on the Island are spreading like wildfire. Local media takes notice and is bringing attention to this developing story. The major news media in Jamaica are competitive, each salivating to break this story.
Jamaica’s government is under tremendous pressure from the opposition to make this information public.
Locals are getting restless because they have heard stories but nothing official from the government. The government is nervous because Jamaica is getting attention from the international press and its major trading partners.
It is true when the government says so.
The Ministry of Health gives an official statement, admitting that the Novel Coronavirus is on the island. Then he tries to downplay the number of confirmed cases, saying everything is under control.
Now that it is official, the gullible section of the population takes the threat seriously. There is a rush on surgical masks. At every stall and stoplight, somebody is selling this product. Before long, the wearing of a surgical mask becomes a fashion statement. Everybody is adding their personal touch to their mask.
On every street corner, someone purporting to have the cure for the Coronavirus is trying to sell concoction that they have created. Everybody is telling you which bush to boil if you catch the virus.
Because of Jamaica’s urban population, the virus threatens to infect over 90% of the population, a much higher infection rate than ChikV.
Coronavirus in Jamaica, how it would impact the healthcare system
Everyone is rushing to the healthcare facilities seeking treatment for the Novel Coronavirus. Every symptom of the virus, imagine or real, cause people to run to health facilities, creating a bottleneck. Those who are sick and need help stay home _and self-medicating. In Jamaica no flu symptoms that a peg of garlic and floss of white rum cannot cure. When the sickness gets worse, bush tea always does the trick.
Overworked nurses and doctors are under pressure to deal with the large influx of patients. And not enough space to accommodate them. The virus is now infecting doctors because they are overworked and make mistakes. The lack of resources further compounds the problem.
Infections have spread to the general hospital population caused by infected doctors.
Blame the Chinese for the Novel Coronavirus
Images of Chinese nationals being the first infected by the Novel Coronavirus are constantly in the media. The public is now fearful of coming into contact with Chinese people. Popular Chinese stores are now scanty. People no longer clamor about buying cheap products from Chinese wholesalers. No one wants to catch the virus.
Unable to travel to China for cheap goods plus shoppers’ fear of doing business with the Chinese, most wholesalers shutter their stores. Waiting to wake from this nightmare.
Novel coronavirus would be disastrous for tourism.
Soon after the Minister of Health and Wellness announcement, Jamaica’s major partner’s band traveled to the island. No more tourists from the USA or Canada to fill the all-inclusive hotels. The faces of happy tourists on the beaches, soaking up the sun, disappear in the blink of an eye.
The novel coronavirus is now synonymous with Jamaica; people even forget that it started in China. Traveling to Jamaica is now like traveling to Hiroshima. Only Travellers to the island are UN personnel or Volunteers trying to help.
Major hotel chains are counting their losses and planning set up elsewhere.
Travel agents are scrambling to find alternative destination packages for their clients. Travel insurers are busy forking out thousands of dollars to clients.
Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism is trying to convince Travellers it is safe to travel to Jamaica. While hotels and resorts are offering huge discounts to travelers and incentives for travel agents.
They depend on Jamaicans to fill those empty rooms on the North Coast. This is not working because the economy is in shambles.
There is a total collapse of the tourism sector. Recovery will be long and hard.
Novel coronavirus is no joke
Novel coronavirus is no joke. So, we need serious planning to ensure it doesn’t impact the island. Planning needs to be in place for the worse case scenarios.
This virus has the potential to devastate small economies like Jamaica.
Although the scenarios above are just my paranoid mind going wild, the possibilities are genuine.
Based on the country’s experience with a less contagious disease, ChikV, which resulted in a 70 percent infection rate, the Novel Coronavirus possibilities are frightening.
Safeguarding Jamaica must be a priority. So, the Novel Coronavirus must be treated as a national security threat.
No confirmation case of Covid in Jamaica at the writing of this post.
Jamaica had no confirmed case of Covid at the writing of this post. So visitors are safe to travel.
Traveling to and from China is banned by the Jamaican government. Precautions are being taken at Jamaica’s ports of entry. Passengers are screened for any sign of the virus. Passengers who show signs of infection are put in isolation.
If you are traveling to the island and have flu symptoms, postpone your trip until you are better. Prevent the inconvenience of being examined and placed in isolation or denied entry.